Australia’s steadfast commitment to ASEAN centrality
As ASEAN's oldest Dialogue Partner, Australia is a committed supporter of ASEAN centrality. We support an open, inclusive and prosperous region with ASEAN at its heart, consistent with the objectives and principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
Our commitment to ASEAN centrality remains as steadfast as ever following the announcement that we will create an enhanced security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and United States – AUKUS – that will allow us to better share technology and capability. It is not a defence alliance or pact.
In a rapidly changing strategic environment, Australia's participation in AUKUS will strengthen our ability to work with regional partners in support of regional stability and security, within the rules-based framework on which our collective prosperity is built.
This new agreement does not change Australia's commitment to ASEAN nor our ongoing support for the ASEAN-led regional architecture. We are committed to continuing to foster a peaceful, secure region with ASEAN at its centre, and to complementing and strengthening the existing ASEAN-led architecture.
As a three-ocean nation dependent on seaborne international trade, our naval capabilities are vital to Australia. For the first initiative under the AUKUS partnership, Australia will build a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, leveraging expertise from the United States and the United Kingdom.
While these submarines will be nuclear powered, they will not carry nuclear weapons. Australia does not and will not seek such weapons. Nor do we seek to establish a civil nuclear capability.
Australia remains staunch in our support for the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Australia will work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure full compliance with our NPT obligations as a Non-Nuclear Weapon State. We remain committed to reinforcing international confidence in the integrity of the international non-proliferation regime, and to upholding our global leadership in this domain.
As a party to the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, Australia understands the critical importance to the countries of Southeast Asia of the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zone Treaty. Australia will at all times ensure our actions support these important treaties.
Australia is a strong proponent of a rules-based maritime order. We support all countries being able to exercise their rights and freedoms consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Australia will continue to partner with ASEAN members, including on sustainable marine resource development and combatting challenges like illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, guided by the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
Partnerships and positive cooperation are at the heart of Australia's approach to the region. The ASEAN-Australia partnership has grown significantly in the past year, with agreement to upgrade our Leaders' meetings to Annual Summits and new cooperation to support an effective health response to the pandemic – including access to safe, effective vaccines – and a path to economic recovery. Australia is proud of our commitment to provide at least 20 million vaccines to Southeast Asia and the Pacific and additional grant aid of A$623 million to support countries across the Indo-Pacific to procure vaccines and distribute them to their citizens.
Australia is a strong supporter of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. We are committed to the principles in the Outlook, including ASEAN centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity, good governance, a rules-based framework and respect for sovereignty and international law. And we are also committed to continuing concrete cooperation under the four areas of the Outlook – maritime, connectivity, Sustainable Development Goals and economic development.
We participate actively in the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus, including our valued and proactive cooperation in areas like military medicine, peacekeeping operations, maritime security and counter-terrorism.
Australia is also committed to upholding our obligations under the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, as we have since we acceded in 2005, and to working with ASEAN and its member states to advance peace and prosperity in our region. We do this so that we can all grow and prosper in an open, stable and inclusive region, with ASEAN at its centre.
Australian Ambassador to ASEAN
20 September 2021